The World’s Most Popular Psychoactive Drug Is Used By College Students Everywhere… But How Dangerous Does It Get?

College—filled with many late nights and early classes. But how are students able to survive with the lack of sleep that results from this? With the use of a very addictive drug. No, not that kind of drug, this kind of drug. It’s caffeine. Students often turn to coffee or energy drinks to give them the extra jolt to make it through the day, or to stay up a little later to cram for a test. Across campus, students are constantly downing caffeine, to put that extra spring in their step. Worldwide, over 260,000,000 pounds of caffeine are consumed annually, which makes caffeine the most popular psychoactive drug on the globe. I personally, also drink coffee and energy drinks if I am running low on sleep and need a boost. I never used to drink coffee much until I came to Penn State, but now it seems that I my intake has increased tenfold. I drink everything now, like iced coffee, coffee with espresso shotsRed Bull, and 5-Hour Energy, along with a few others. When my energy is low, these come to my rescue. Unfortunately, it has become an unhealthy habit of mine, and sometimes I find myself in a situation where I need multiple drinks to keep going. The more I spend on these drinks, the more I think about how I am potentially harming my body.

Some of you may be saying, “Wait, caffeine is natural. It’s found in nature, how can it be harmful?” While it is true that is natural, caffeine can be very dangerous. Too much of anything is never good. Excessive caffeine can result in headaches, nausea, and anxiety. This video portrays the worst of what can happen from an overdose of caffeine. The video demonstrates the extreme of what can happen when one overindulges on caffeine. Is that likely to ever happen from drinking Mountain Dew every day? No. Yet, other minor things will most likely occur. But before we delve into the potential harmful side effects, what really is caffeine, and why do so many of us consume it?

Caffeine is a drug that in its purest form is a bitter white powder and in fact does indeed have addictive qualities. Everyone knows that caffeine makes you feel less tired, but how exactly does it do it? Basically it accomplishes this by suppressing it’s similarly structured Adenosine molecules found in the brain. Adenosine molecules’ role is to calm down the nervous system. However, when you consume caffeine, it overpowers the Adenosine, and stimulates and energizes the nervous system. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure increases, which naturally increases alertness and delays the feeling of fatigue. But what about the “addiction”? It is not a real addiction, but the real reason people need it frequently, or feel “addicted”, is because it just becomes a bad habit they develop where they need the extra energy, and they turn to their trusty caffeine for help. While it is correct that one will experience slight withdrawal symptoms if you go off of it after daily use, it is nothing compared to the withdrawal symptoms another white powdered drug would give you.  

There are a lot of claims about what caffeine does to the body, some of which are supported by numerous experiments, and others that have rather shaky evidence to back them up. There are many facts about caffeine, like caffeine being linked to gout attacks, caffeine raising the chance for women to develop incontinence, and caffeine raising the blood pressure of people who suffer from hypertension. What really astounded me was the amount of data about caffeine that did not have good evidence to support it. Quite frankly, it is a result of the fact that it is just very difficult to conduct an experiment to evaluate the long term effects of constant caffeine use. It is nearly impossible to run a double blind placebo trial that garners good results. Although it boggles my mind that caffeine is the most widely used everyday in the world yet we still unfortunately know so little about it, it is safe to say that unless you devour grams of caffeine per day, you will be fine. Instead you will just have to worry about your wallet because those pricy Mocha Frappuccinos from Starbucks will add up.



6 thoughts on “The World’s Most Popular Psychoactive Drug Is Used By College Students Everywhere… But How Dangerous Does It Get?

  1. cmh5996

    I will be the first to admit that I am a very unpleasant person before 10am if I have not had a coffee. That being said, I completely understand the outrageous statistics that surround the use of caffeine. Penn State students witness first hand the line in the HUB for the Starbucks that at times can go all the way to the fishtanks. Its crazy but at the same time believable. Most students work endlessly all day, have maybe 5 hours of sleep if they are lucky, and then continue the same cycle. Its these bad habits that make so many students turn to these heavenly caffeinated beverages to reboot their systems. The magazine published by the Smithsonian Institute offers a deeper look at the science behind how our brains actually become so addicted to caffeine. Take a look!

  2. Kaitlin A Kemmerer

    I found this blog very interesting! I drink at least 2 cups of coffee a day and know of the basic side effects like raised blood pressure and yellowing teeth but it helps me get through the day. However, I never really thought it through. I would never consider taking caffeine pills but will drink multiple cups of coffee regardless of the potential side effects from too much. I was just wondering if you found any significant studies that showed long term effects from too much caffeine? I was also wondering if the claims you did find could have any potential confounding variables? Here is an article from Mayo Clinic that I think you will find interesting!

  3. Jon Winneg

    Before college I didn’t really drink energy drinks or coffee, but now I have an energy drink at least once a week for those late night study sessions. Even though I am not dependent on these drinks, I do see people who literally can’t function without having their morning cup of coffee. When these people don’t have their coffee, they go through a type of withdrawal which includes grumpiness, short temper, and drowsiness which is similar to those who go through withdrawal of some drugs like nicotine. Besides the obvious problem of spending, consuming so much caffeine can’t be healthy. I agree with you about how it is ridiculous people will go to excuse their habits. Sure its “natural” but so are some opiums and other drugs. Natural or organic does not always correlate with healthy. I read an article that shows how many products are now being mixed with caffeine so many of us are not even aware of. I don’t really support the whole pro caffeine sentiment our generation is taking.

  4. Taylor Michael Evcic

    This blog is a really good blog for anyone who is Starbucks crazy like a lot of people that I know. I love coffee and drink it almost everyday but it does get pricy as you said. Plus, many days I don’t have the time to stop at Starbucks before class! I instead take caffeine pills! They are completely safe and equate to about a cup and a half of coffee. I find that this is much easier than always having to go get a coffee and carry it around plus it’s much cheaper. This page shows many different kinds, varieties and describes how they work. Obviously you don’t want to go taking 5 a day but as a substitute to a morning cup of coffee once in a while they work great and are quickly effective. I think you did a good job of explaining this blog topic. I definitely wish there was some more information such as studies or trials with this topic. I’m sure as our world gets busier and busier caffeine will become a bigger problem for people.

  5. Nicole Glass

    I have see caffeine withdrawal happen to many people who drink soda or coffee daily. It’s interesting that we know so little about this drug, however. While browsing the articles on this topic I found that there is actually such a thing as caffeine poisoning and overdose ( I think that this proves that we need to take caffeine more seriously and look more into its negative effects.

  6. Nicole Rene Gelb

    This is a very relatable blog to many college students I am sure, however I myself have always tried to steer clear of caffeine in general. Too me the taste is not all that great and with all the dangers and harmful properties it contains I don’t think it is worth it for a little burst of energy. Coffee unhealthily raises blood pressure, it stunts growth, and it yellows teeth, and I have always been extremely anal about taking care of my teeth. Caffeine is a drug and can be extremely addictive, I have seen people have withdrawal symptoms from not drinking coffee or caffeinated tea. Overall caffeinated beverages are very harmful to the human body and health of an individual. Here is a link I looked up to learn more harmful effects caffeine has,

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